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Literally Hits the Brown Note - 78%

FLIPPITYFLOOP, May 8th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Independent

Stoner metal has never really been my favourite subgenre of metal. That’s not to say that I dislike it completely - there are definitely a collection of bands that I do admire - it just means that when compared to other flavours like black metal, death metal or even the closely related post-metal/sludge/doom combo a la Neurosis, stoner metal as a whole does noticeably less to entice my interest, the instrumental side of it even less so. From the over-gratification of the blues scale, to the super minimalist drumming to the constant power chord cranking, many bands of this particular niche put me to sleep and they all seem to do the same fucking thing to the point where their songs and riffs are completely interchangeable. At the end of the day, while there are definitely some super generic bands in other forms of music, I find I’d still much rather listen to a Darkthrone clone or yet another Suffocation worshipper than a slowed down version of Muddy Waters.

Musically speaking, Horse Lung possess nearly every characteristic of one of these instrumental stoner/doom bands, and judging from my explanation above I should probably dislike this band as well, right? Well take a look above to my rating - something doesn’t add up. What is it about Horse Lung that I like so much?

I’m still having a hard time coming up with a full, clear-cut answer to that question. Is my general distaste towards stoner metal not as strong as I thought it was? Perhaps. Is it simply executed better than the rest? Maybe. Is it the fact that I know and am friends with the members of this up-and-coming band? That’s definitely part of it. However, that doesn’t stop me from being honest. I don’t bullshit people, and when it comes to hearing opinions about my music I wouldn’t want people to bullshit me either. I think a huge part of what entices me so much about this album is that there’s a certain darkness to what these guys are doing. Perhaps it’s found in Alex’s down-tuned, crunchy guitar, Jimmy’s pounding drums or Tamara’s bass that literally sounds like rippling bong water. In any case, there’s a reason why I had to shit part-way through my first listen of “Sacred Mausoleum Smoke.”

If you read my description above concerning the general formula for instrumental stoner/doom, you’ll get an idea of what you’re going to hear when you start listening to Gethsemane Haze, and it fits that description to a tee. However, like I mentioned later on this is indeed executed quite well and isn’t dreadful like a lot of other bands like this that I’ve heard over the years. That being said though I still do have a couple gripes with this, the first one being that it seems like the band is quite shy, holding themselves back throughout parts of this record. Perhaps Alex can throw in some more lead work (he’s displayed this skill valiantly in the past, particularly with his black metal band Before the Black Gates), or Jimmy can switch up his beats and throw in a fill or two, or Tamara’s bass lines can step out a bit more. The thing is that they’re capable of doing this - they do it quite well in the middle 3 songs of the album (not including the intro), particularly “Camel Caravan,” where a variety of emotional riffs and the most elaborate playing on the album combine to create the album’s highlight, and a strong track that truly delivers.

This brings me to my other gripe with the album, being that on a structural standpoint these guys need to work at tying the elements of their songs together. Throughout much of it there’s a strong sense of “here’s one riff, now here’s the next riff, and now this one, and now this one,” and so on. This is something that I feel will improve itself over time through more experience with song writing (this is their debut, after all) as well as more experimentation with different kinds of ideas being created. I understand that this is stoner/doom and that Horse Lung aren’t trying to be the next Ulcerate, but I guess what I’m trying to suggest is more Bongzilla and less Weedeater, if you catch my drift. Again, both of these concepts were still done quite well in the middle 3 songs of this album which equals out to a large chunk of the album. “Riff Wizard” is aptly named, and “Camel Caravan” is the best song on the album for more than one reason.

Criticism aside, this is still a quality debut from an up-and-coming band, and Horse Lung are well on their way to doing great things - they’ve already drafted their blueprints; now they just need to start building. Stoner/doom fans can rejoice, and those unfamiliar with the genre can still find something enjoyable about this album. Gethsemane Haze is a crushing, intriguing, and fun listen, and it will clear your bowels in an instant!